Woman suing Target after finding chili and towels in vacuum box

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A woman went to Target to get a brand new vacuum cleaner, but when she got home the box was filled with rocks, towels and a can of chili. Target then accused her of making the switch.

"My husband said, 'This looks weird. Why are there towels?'" Annie Banerjee recalled. "And I kept saying, 'Maybe to cushion it.'"

Banerjee spent more than $300 on a vacuum, but received a box full of junk.

When she discovered the deception, she went back to the Galleria Target 30 minutes later. She says they refused to take it back.

Instead, she claims they accused her of stealing it and ended up having her escorted from the store by police.

"The implication was I took it home for half an hour, changed that and came back," Banerjee said.

Banerjee filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Target in April saying that the fact that she is of Indian decent played a role in what she says was unfair treatment.

Only then did Banerjee and her attorney get surveillance video.

Her attorney, Randall Kallinen, said the store provided video they deemed relevant to the case, but didn't provide an explanation.

In the video, you can see a man enter target with a baby and large box in his cart. He's later seen by the Dyson vacuums removing the security device and putting the box in his cart.

At the register, surveillance shows that man with two large boxes in his basket. While the cashier rings up other items, he puts one on the ground, but makes his way out of the store with the other.

The box with the can of chili and towels inside was picked up by a target employee and eventually put back on the shelf where Banerjee later buys it for herself thinking there was a vacuum inside.

"I think this target must have a memo somewhere that says 'Minorities will try to pull one over you. Be very careful,'" said Banerjee.

Banerjee says she did eventually get a new vacuum sent to her home and inside was an envelope with a cash refund.

Kallinen said he plans to depose the employees she interacted with when she tried to return the product.

He did not specify how much money they were seeking as part of the lawsuit.

Target released the following statement regarding the incident:

At Target, we want everyone who shops in our stores to feel valued and respected and have been working for a number of years to reach an amicable resolution with Ms. Banerjee on this case. We first contacted her in 2017 to offer an apology and a new vacuum cleaner at our expense, but she would not engage with Target. Additionally, we shared surveillance video with the Houston Police Department, who arrested and charged the man responsible for tampering with vacuum cleaners at Target stores in the Houston area. We remain focused on working toward a reasonable resolution with Ms. Banerjee.

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